Think about great inventions of the 20th century and what springs to mind?

There are those who’d say penicillin, electric air conditioning, the airplane or nuclear power.

But I’d say the soft-close loo seat has to be up there. Seriously, don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. The gentle, almost imperceptible clunk as it lands at 2am has surely saved almost as many marriages as antibiotics. OK, perhaps not, but once you go soft-close, you’ll never go back to the rude, noisy thwack on porcelain of a regular toilet seat.

The point being, and there is one, that I was very pleasantly surprised to see a soft-close loo seat in the bathroom of the budget-oriented Room 2 Hotel in Hammersmith, W6 recently when I had an overnight staycation with the other half before new year. It’s a budget hotel that doesn’t feel budget: they’re obviously not skimping.


Situated at 120 Hammersmith Grove, the hotel blends into the residential street, a 5-minute walk from Hammersmith tube.

There’s no reception – how millennial! – so instead you key in a door code that’s been emailed to you prior to arrival. Ditto the code for your room. There’s a well-stocked vending machine on the ground floor with everything from toothbrushes to popcorn and hand sanitizer in it, and a well-maintained garden at the back, which must be a boon in summer. On the top floor was a small washer and dryer room.


Our bedroom – a large studio – on the top floor had a kitchenette with a dishwasher, microwave, toaster, stove top and kettle, eating area, a decent-sized bathroom with shower and a very soft bed, and overall was well designed. The TV swivelled out from the wall (perfect to watch in bed) and we could have streamed downloads from our phone or tablet had we not been tech dinosaurs. The double glazed windows did a good job of shielding the road noise outside. We loved the practical, local what-to-do suggestions left in an envelope by our bed. Quick, strong wifi is available throughout the building.

We could have got some food and cooked in our room but we walked ten minutes to the Anglesea Arms gastropub, and for breakfast the next morning tucked into bacon and pancakes at Bill’s near Hammersmith Broadway.


Any niggles? Well I’m a light sleeper and did hear a few night owls returning to their rooms in the small hours. Maybe earplugs could be in the vending machine for us princesses who demand nocturnal silence?


Overall, it’s a cool place to stay and gets all the basics right in a way that’s far from basic. Once you hop on the tube at Hammersmith, Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square are just 15 minutes away, and Heathrow half an hour. London’s classic tourist sites await, but then so does a Londoner’s London, with pubs, shops and parks that many visitors never get to see.

Double rooms at Room 2 start from £109 per night (correct, January 2017),

Will Hide stayed as a guest of the hotel.

Photos copyright Room 2 and Oliver Markham.




If you’re thinking about travel blogging in 2017, have you considered joining the Lonely Planet Pathfinders program.

I’m slightly conflicted about this, in the sense that I don’t think there are many instances when someone should write for someone else for free. (Free doesn’t pay the mortgage or pay off the credit card bills. Not paying someone literally says you think their work has no value).

But at least with Lonely Planet, after you have progressed up the ranks a bit there is a chance to start earning, and on the positive side, you are part of one of the world’s largest travel communities.

What do you think? Good or bad idea? Are any of you members already and how have you found the experience? And what are your favourite travel blogs?

Video and photo-centric sites like Instagram are becoming more and more important to planning travel, be it a weekend away or a round-the-world trip of a lifetime…just look at everyone on the bus in the morning glued to their iPhones. And with a smart phone it’s increasingly easy to shoot and edit your own professional’ish mini movies on the road to share on YouTube.

Here’s one I did in Morocco a while back, which I edited & added music to on the plane home. (OK, OK, I said professional’ish).

And then there are the truly proficient ones – they have a microphone and a budget and everything!

On Instagram Beautiful Destinations, as an example, has almost 8 million followers, and the brothers in charge Jeremy and Tom Jauncey have 477,000 and 94,000 followers respectively. And they are certainly making money from it, travelling the world and having a great time, so good on them.

What are your Instagram travel favourites?

Anyway, I think 2017 is going to be a year where travel gets a lot more…visual.



If you’re looking for a snowy break, but you’re not into downhill skiing, here is a selection of winter holidays that might fit the bill, which appeared in the Times earlier this month.times-winter-breaks-1-jpeg times-winter-breaks-2-jpeg times-winter-breaks-3-jpeg





Last February I visited the Pyrenees for the first time. I think my days of “just” going for a week-long blast of skiing are over, (I blame my knees), so this was an ideal break: I got to ski, but I also stayed overnight on top of a mountain with its own astronomical observatory and visited the town of Lourdes too, which has always piqued my curiosity. Anyway, read all about it here, in my article that appeared in the Times a few weeks ago.